In the middle of the Civil War, a Union soldier received a letter from home.
The envelope brought neither prayers nor yearning. Instead, Daniel Keller found ... math.
Sophie Keller, a teacher in Boalsburg, needed his help with some solutions.
“The guy’s on a battlefield, and his sister writes, ‘Can you do these arithmetic problems?’ ” said Susan Evans, exhibits chairwoman for the Boalsburg Heritage Museum.
Her request and his response — he did as asked — are included in the museum’s newest exhibit,
“Pennsylvania Civil War 150 Commemoration,” in honor of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the war’s first year. The exhibit, which opened last month, runs until Aug. 30.
Boalsburg’s most famous tie to the war involved Sophie Keller, one of three women who placed flowers on local soldiers’ graves, the basis for the town’s claim to be Memorial Day’s birthplace. A prominent statue next to the town cemetery immortalizes the trio.
Tucked away at the end of East Main Street in an 1825 house, the museum showcases more links between the town and the War Between the States.
Among the highlights are selections from a cache of 53 letters from the Keller family, discovered by a museum volunteer last year in the attic of the Centre County Historical Museum in Bellefonte.
Evans said the letters, some of which Daniel Keller wrote while serving in the Pennsylvania 148th
Volunteer Regiment, offer firsthand accounts of the war, including the burning of Chambersburg. One discusses President Lincoln’s assassination.
“And nobody’s seen them before,” Evans said. “You know how exciting that is? It’s cool.”
With Keller in the 148th was Boalsburg’s Dr. Calvin William Fisher, an assistant surgeon. The exhibit contains Fisher’s ornate ceremonial sword, supposedly given to him for his service by Gov. James Beaver. Fisher’s great-grandson, in North Carolina, loaned the artifact.
Like Keller, who became a Bellefonte attorney, Fisher survived the war, only to die in 1889, at the age of 57, in a train wreck.
An unusual display, borrowed from Boalsburg resident Jim Sorenson, gathers various 19th century American flags, featuring different configurations of the stars. Before a 1912 federal mandate, there was no standard design.
Visitors can learn that Lincoln ordered stars for the Confederate states kept on the flag, and that the garrison at Fort Sumter still flew its 33-star flag during the April 1861 bombardment that started the war.
Elsewhere in the 29-year-old museum at 304 E.Main St., antique furnishings offer additional glimpses into Boalsburg’s past. Hours are 2-4 p.m. Tuesday and Saturday, and admission is free. For more information, call 466-3035 or visit www.boalsburgheritagemuseum.org. By Chris Rosenblum